What are reasons why Indie Hackers who can build products fail to build businesses?

Hey Indie Hackers, I asked this question on Twitter and got some very insightful responses. Would love to hear what ya'll have to say about it.

Why is it that engineers who can build great products fail to build great businesses? What can we do as indie hackers to close the gap?

The original Tweet:

  1. 6

    They give up to quickly!! I can’t tell you how many projects I see on here, launch to crickets and then they just give up. Just because you don’t have users on day 1 doesn’t mean you should give up.

    1. 1

      Yep, launch day is just a day and it doesn't even have to be a one-time thing. Keep marketing, keep building, get traction.

  2. 4

    I think that it really takes two people - you nail down a spec and let one build while the other (who is adept at everything but the code) goes out and gets the messaging and positioning right, builds a website, understands customer acquisition etc. Goes and makes an LLC, fires up quickbooks, writes documentation etc. and then onboards and supports customers. I had success with the same partner following this setup. a software app isnt even a product, even if it works great, its an app. It has to be turned into a product and the product needs to be wrapped in a business. Devs have to avoid thinking the app is the business just because they quickly add a website and a payment method.

    1. 1

      Great if you can find the right partner! How did you meet you co-founder?

      1. 2

        I worked with an IT support manager at a company, we talked about internet software ideas a lot. We both left that company and went to two other ones, he called one day with an idea, that was that. It was from working with him. We didn't have ANY way to find a partner. The ability to go to a site like indie hackers with a group called "partner up" wasn't even on anyone's radar. It's never been easier to find a partner you just have to both feel like you are a fit for each other.

  3. 2

    no plan on how to get those users.

    1. 1

      Yuup. Any tips you've picked up?

      1. 1

        Starting off, probably reading through the stuff in https://www.julian.com/guide/growth/intro

  4. 2

    Likely too oriented towards one side. I personally feel having a developer/marketer combination would be killer, but you don't get that as often as two developer founders.

    1. 1

      It's not easy but it can be learned! Just another skillset.

  5. 2

    On my first try, failure came because we made really bad decisions regarding technology. We implemented tons of shiny things that did not really matter (e.g., offline-first) and it cost us months and months. At the same time, we pushed back some features that were actually critical...

    My co-founders also didn't want to show the product too early to potential customers (they feared rejection and giving a bad impression), and we ended up showing it too late. Because of that, we learned about key features way too late.

    Finally, we just ran out of money.

    1. 2

      What shiny things did you implement? If you don't mind me asking.

      1. 2

        I've covered this here earlier this year: https://medium.com/swlh/20-months-in-2k-hours-spent-and-200k-lost-a-story-about-resilience-and-the-sunk-cost-fallacy-69fd4f61ef59

        Basically, offline-first, many "nice-to-have features", Rich text edition, CI/CD, Kubernetes, and more!

        We targeted hospitals in Belgium (had many prospects), and thought that we needed something "solid"-enough from the start. It made sense at the time. But we didn't get the feedback we needed.

        Early on, we had UI/UX prototypes, and we could've shown those around. We would have learned a ton much earlier.

        1. 2

          Good story even if it didn't work out.

          1. 2

            I still have time & energy, so I'll try a few more times! :)
            I just need to convince someone with UI/UX skills to join me hehe

            The good news is that I've learned my lessons, I have an idea about what to avoid the next time around :p

  6. 2

    Marketing their products.

    Most of us focus too much on developing our products, instead of listening and adapting the product to our target audience's needs.

  7. 2

    Hi Anthony,

    I would assume several reasons for this.

    1. Too much focus on engineering and staying in a comfort zone

    If you'd ask why a software engineer is a software engineer, it might be because they love software engineering :) They feel comfortable in this area, and might stick with it, trying to suppress the problems in our areas like marketing, finance, etc. I've been there too. Instead of focusing on expanding the partner network, I was infinitely improving the software of where the partners are supposed to communicate with my business.

    1. Misunderstanding the true value of a business

    I assume that in your OP by "product" you mean the software as is, without the value-proposition part of it. In my experience, engineers might not see the full picture and understand the value they bring to the market. Therefore they might fail to market the product properly.

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